‘US needs to be defended’: Bezos explains Amazon bid for DoD project… and it’s no surprise
“If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the Department of Defense [DoD], this country is in trouble,” Bezos said at a conference in San Francisco on Monday. He later added: “This is a great country – it needs to be defended.”
Amazon Web has embarked on bidding for a major contract with the Pentagon worth as much as $10bn. Dubbed JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure), the project concerns offering cloud computing services to the US military.
According to publicly available information, JEDI aims to keep the military’s computing systems up-to-date by moving them onto one big cloud.
However, not much is really known about how JEDI will be employed in future. When unveiling talking about the cloud services in March, the Pentagon did not mince words. “This program is truly about increasing the lethality of our department and providing the best resources to our men and women in uniform,” John H. Gibson II, the DoD chief management officer, said at the time.
A number of US tech companies joined in the race for the contract, but their enthusiasm was short lived. Earlier, Google dropped its bid for JEDI, saying it could violate its “AI principles.” This is, perhaps, not surprising, as the company has recently witnessed a massive outcry from its employees over another joint project with the DoD – Project Maven.The latter was aimed to create an AI program that would improve the targeting of drone strikes. Critics have argued that Maven will eventually pave the way for AI drones to determine targets on their own, without the help of humans.
Google’s concerns about the JEDI project were shared by Microsoft staff, who also rebelled against bidding for the Pentagon contract. In an open letter purporting to be from an unspecified number of Microsoft employees and published on blogging site Medium, the workers said they joined Microsoft with “the expectation that the technologies we build will not cause harm or human suffering.”
They also accused executives of betraying the company’s artificial intelligence policy that states AI should be “fair, reliable and safe, private and secure, inclusive, transparent, and accountable” in pursuit of “short-term profits.”
The ethical considerations, however, don’t appear to be causing Jeff Bezos to lose much sleep. Speaking on Monday, he said corporate leaders have a responsibility to make “unpopular” decisions. Arguing for supporting the military, he went on: “This country is a gem… there aren’t other countries everyone is trying to get in.”
The fusion between "US mega monopolies and the state apparatus, specifically the Pentagon, has been a dominant trend in the US economy for the past seven decades,” Brian Becker, the director of the US anti-war and social justice ANSWER coalition, told RT. But Amazon stands out, even against such backgrounds, as it literally gives its employees no freedom of opinion in corporate issues, he argued.
“Unlike Google and Microsoft, both of whom are also mega monopolies, Amazon employees have no room to breathe in a political sense.”
Becker said that the opposition of the employees of other big corporations “functioned as a restraint on management” when it wanted to cooperate with the US state on some questionable projects. Amazon, however, can make its “surveillance capabilities and other technological capacities available to the Pentagon for a very hefty fee” and act as a “subcontractor for the US war machine” with no regard to the resistance within the corporate ranks.
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